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Encountering Mental Illness, Mental Health is Not a #Hashtag

A Real Life Story of a Violent Act Resulting From Mental Illness

As we begin a month dedicated to raising awareness about mental health and the posts flood our social media feeds, encouraging us to embrace the reality of mental illness, accept it, and support people struggling with it, we are forced to contend with the fact that mental illness is all around us. I know it's Mental Health Awareness month and we are to #endthestigmaofmentalhealth; it's really about mental illness, the lack of mental health and mental wellness.

Just yesterday the result of violent mental illness staggered into my line of sight. While driving along enjoying the sunshine and glorious weather, I encountered a well-groomed middle-aged white man staggering on the corner with blood spilling from his gut, his hands, and what seemed like his whole body. I whipped my car around as he shouted "call the police!" I pulled into a plaza parking lot and dialed 911, 'all agents were busy' (really?) A random group of people began assembling in the parking lot to help, as I reported his information to the officer that ultimately answered the call.

The man had been stabbed, by his adult son who fled the scene. The man's wife had also been there, but someone got her out of there before I saw him. The man said his son was mentally ill.

Though this type of violence occurs daily, everywhere, and isn't even alarming to the tens of millions of people enduring war-torn, crime-ridden places, I had never encountered a stabbing victim on the street. I wasn't in shock, or emotional, just handled the situation and called for help. Cool under pressure, like many of us are built.

In my business we confront mental health on the daily, typically labeled burnout. Our psychologists and counselors are compassionate healers, skilled in guiding people toward better mental and emotional health, total health. We meet with the hurting person that is struggling with the impact of burnout, depression or grief. But the counseling conversations we have are wrapped in a resort setting, so, mental health looks very different here. It needs to. We focus on listening, comforting, trauma release and the more beautiful healing journey, replete with an ocean vista.

We don't often get to see burnout 'in action', the daily struggle to make it through the day. We only see what it has done to them personally to get to this point of finally seeking help. A client told me yesterday that she 'feels like a tea kettle about to burst, but there is no outlet, nowhere to release the pressure'. That's easy to visualize and empathize. But we don't see the effects it has on a person's life to this point, family members, loved ones or colleagues, that have also felt the effects of the person's ill health.

Mental illness isn't beautiful, isn't serene and often not only a quiet depression (which by the way, is anger turned inward.) Mental illness is painful, and the pain has to have somewhere to go, imploding or exploding.

This boiling point can ignite such rage in a person that it compels them to attack another person, verbally or physically, like the son that stabbed his father yesterday.

In my own experience, that rage and violence came from alcoholism, or so I thought. My father, a Major in the U.S. Army, and a survivor of the Korean war, Vietnam and untold trauma, was also a raging alcoholic while raising five children on his own.

I have experienced firsthand the erratic behavior that comes with Bipolar disorder, from my mom, who was diagnosed when I was a toddler. It is sobering as I recount the mental illness, the rage, violence and abuse that frames much of my childhood memories, from the tender age of four. The experts on my team say that most people don't have access to memories of their life before the age of five. Well I do, the traumatic ones at least.

Unfortunately, my tale with so many adversities is not a rare one. In fact, studies show it's more common than we realize. And my story is not a story of woe, but one of victory. Yes, I am victorious, filled with joy, energy, enthusiasm and a zest for life! Victory is not only possible, it's real, no matter what has happened.

I have overcome the effects of mental illness and trauma that invaded my young life in countless way. I guess that's why I'm such a champion for mental health. I want everyone to overcome their past or present circumstances related to mental illness, whether it be depression, anxiety, fits of rage, suicidal thoughts or burnout.

Writing this, I'm moved to tears as I consider the wounded world in which we live. Hurting people are hurting others. People are hating, raging against others. People are committing suicide at skyrocketing rates. People are killing one another. This world is broken. It is no wonder - the W.H.O. reported that half of Americans surveyed reported recent symptoms of anxiety or depression (mental illness.) That statistic runs true with most of the world today.

My apologies to those, like me, that limit their intake of news because it is so disturbing. Maybe we need to be disturbed, and moved to action. We may be able to shield ourself from the news about a world gone crazy, but we cannot shield ourselves from the very real effects of ill mental health. So what are we going to do about it, get help, or offer it?

Mental health awareness is not a hashtag. Mental illness is not pretty; it's ugly, it's raw, it's painful, and it is no respecter of persons. It includes every nation, tongue, tribe and socioeconomic class of people. But it does not have to lead to rage, violence, abuse or suicide. There is healing. There is hope. Regardless of how messed up your family of origin, your bloodline, your upbringing or the brutality you have endured, acts of violence you have witnessed or inflicted, there is real hope for you. Your future can and will look very different from your current circumstances. Just take the first step, ask for help - from anyone who will listen. If you don't feel like anyone is listening, ask me.

I found help through counseling and total healing through Jesus Christ. Acts 10:25-37 says "God is no respecter of persons. . . " That means He doesn't exclude anyone from receiving ALL the blessings He has for those who love Him, including healing and joy. 2 Timothy 1:7 says "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love and a sound mind". This is a promise we receive when we commit our life to Him.

Reach out to me directly and I'm happy to connect you with any resources, anywhere that will help ignite your belief and hope that there is something more for you than this current mental and emotional spin you are experiencing.

For another encouraging true story of an overcomer, check out The Broken Road to Mental Health , from a friend of mine, Sharon Fekete 🏗. And for daily inspiration to stop the negative self-talk, lies and fear-based narratives repeating in your mind, check out Igniting Hope, Leveling-Up Your Thought Life in 31 Days, by Yours Truly,

Now, I believe hashtags are warranted.

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